6 must-know CSR trends for public companies in 2017

One of the biggest focuses for public companies in the New Year is improving their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in terms of tailored goals, visibility, reporting, and more. The Ethical Corporation recently released a report in which they gathered research from 948 CSR professionals from around the globe on their thoughts of the state of their profession as it moves into 2017. We analyzed their research, as well as our own findings from what was most crucial for our clients this year, and developed these 6 must-know CSR trends for public companies in 2017.

1. CSR is more mainstream, which means more competition

A few years back, it was enough for public companies to have a fairly comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility section on their website, with a simple PDF presentation and a few images of how they took into consideration the environment, communities, and their social impact. A vague understanding of social impact is no longer enough to stand out amongst the top public companies with the best CSR reputations. Taking action against climate change, contributing to social justice movements, and standing firm in founding principles are trends in themselves for big companies, and have become not just acceptable, but expected. With more companies understanding the value CSR can bring to both their public image and their stakeholders, it’s getting harder to make a message stand out in a sea of ‘do-gooding’. The Bmeaningful Blog writes, “Breaking through the clutter of messaging and advertising will be a challenge but we see tremendous opportunity for professionals who can authentically tell their companies’ cause story”.

2. CSR content will become even more personalized

Focus on CSR goals that make sense for your company and will garner the most trust from your primary stakeholders. As we talk about in our report entitled, What is CSR and Why Your Website Will Tell Your Story, “A trap that many companies fall into is thinking that CSR is only about giving back to the environment…CSR can also focus on efforts with local communities and interactions with your own consumers and what matters to them”. Building investor trust means tailoring content to their main concerns, while also ensuring you’re staying true to your company’s story and goals. If you’ve published multiple CSR success stories to a company newsletter, one focusing on community impact and one focusing on social change, you can serve different content to different investors based on what they most care about. As we discuss in our article about Digital Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2017, investors are looking for more personalized content. This includes what CSR stories you should be promoting.

csr trends for 2017 video

3. Showcase CSR efforts through video and animation     

Perhaps the biggest trend we see each year in the digital marketing world is that the online attention span of consumers is shrinking astronomically. We are so used to getting the information we want online right away, in bite-sized pieces. The same concept applies with investors. Your investors won’t have the time to read a 15 page PDF report on how your latest CSR measure impacted a community and benefited your company. Break down the CSR successes of the past year with videos, data visualizations, or animations on your website. Even more important: make your reporting shareable. Short videos illustrating your impact as a company are the perfect way to get some brand differentiation and easily circulate your message. TELUS’ 2015 Sustainability Report is a great example of how a company can mix text, bold images, and data visualization to highlight impact.

4. Align your CSR goals with those at the top

Ethical Corporation’s report states that “Only 25% of CSR executives [surveyed] stated their CFO is absolutely convinced of the value of the CSR report”. This is a problem. If your company’s CEO, CFO, and more aren’t aware of the CSR goals for the coming year, or don’t see value in spending more time, energy, and money on CSR initiatives or CSR reporting, your company will come across as disjointed and not united in your social message. Ensure that environmental impact, social justice, and community service goals aren’t simply dreamt and executed within one department. The whole company, from the top to the bottom, should understand the importance of what you’re doing and how it relates to your vision and end goals.

5. Make CSR presentations available on every platform

We spoke above about translating your CSR initiatives to video and animation, but it’s equally important to make sure what you’re putting out there can be accessed by anyone who wants to see what your company is up to. 2017 will see even more people disregard their desktops for a mobile phone, so make sure every downloadable CSR presentation, testimonial video, customer story, and website link are available by a smartphone or tablet browser.

csr trends for 2017 tablet

6. Don’t just report, relate back

Don’t focus all your CSR energy on reporting. Ethical Corporation’s report says, “60% of respondents agreed that too much time is being spent on the reporting process”. Investors want to see how CSR initiatives affected the numbers, but that doesn’t mean you can pull a ‘number dump’ and be done with it. Make sure you’re not just reporting the numbers or you’ll create a disconnect between your company and the lives you actually impacted. So this year, think about other ways to illustrate the impact you’ve made. Include more employee testimonials, customer success stories, environmental impact studies, or ‘Message from the CEO’ videos. Mixing up how you deliver CSR good news makes sure investors, as well as your target audiences, don’t get number fatigue.


Conclusion: Don’t choose a CSR focus based on what’s trending

Ironically, even though this article is all about CSR trends, make sure you’re not shifting your CSR strategy each year based on what’s trending. Although many big companies have jumped at the chance to show their support for social change in the past few years, that doesn’t mean you have to organize something similar for your company if a big social justice push doesn’t match your short or long term goals. As long as everyone is working towards your company vision, you should be okay.

For a comprehensive look at ways to improve your CSR on your website, as well as some great examples of public companies with great CSR reporting, download our guide below!



Chevrolet Embraces the #ChevyGuy Mishap and it Pays Off

This week, we’re giving you an example of how a seeming PR nightmare can actually be a great opportunity for your company to show their smarts. After the World Series, a very nervous Chevrolet representative seemingly butchered his speech. Instead of sweeping the mishap under the rug, Chevy transparently and effectively communicated with their audience. Read below for some inspiration when it comes to re-thinking your own investor communication!

If you haven’t heard of it already, well, this is the poor Chevy Guy:

His name is Rikk Wilde, and during his sweaty and flashcard-accompanied speech, he probably didn’t know he was about to become an internet sensation. The Chevrolet regional zone manager bumbled through his minute long speech of presenting MLB World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner with a new Chevy Colorado. His most memorable moment came when he attempted to describe the new car:

“Um, it combines class-winning and leading, uh, you know, technology and stuff with, uh, Wi-Fi powered by OnStar, sitting there on the screen…”

Yeesh. Seemed like a pretty embarrassing moment and a bad hit for Chevrolet.

But it wasn’t. The internet blew up with responses. Some were horrified, but most were just amused. Jokes sprang up everywhere. AdAge writes, “Within an hour, ‘#ChevyGuy,’ ‘#TechnologyandStuff’ and ‘#Rikk Wilde’ were among the top 10 national trending topics on Twitter”.

And what did Chevy do? They ran with it. Only hours after the interview, they tweeted this picture, incorporating the hashtag #TechnologyAndStuff.


They also added #TechnologyAndStuff to their homepage and the Chevy Colorado page on their website:


Business Insider writes that, “One day after World Series, Chevy edited the end of their new commercial for the Colorado. Instead of ‘you know you want a truck, the all-new Chevy Colorado,’ the voice at the end of the commercial now says ‘the all-new Chevy Colorado, you know you want a truck … and stuff'”.

The internet LOVED the company’s lighthearted response, and applauded them for sticking with their guy:




And the ChevyGuy didn’t just provide Chevrolet and GM with some good stories. According to a Bloomberg report,

“Chevrolet, the official vehicle of Major League Baseball, has received at least $2.4 million in media exposure from Rikk Wilde’s unconventional presentation, much of it on social media, according to sponsorship evaluation firm Front Row Analytics. That’s six times more than the $392,000 it would have brought in with a more polished performance.”

Way to go, Rikk!

Re-imagining the Repetitive: 2 Airlines Make Old Content Seem New

It’s a tale as old as time. The somewhat forced perkiness of the stewardess in an airline safety video, reminding everyone aboard a departing flight of the necessary safety information. The talk on the video could just as easily be white noise. Instead of listening, we use this time to check last minute emails, send off a quick text or two, and contemplate the in-flight food packages, wondering if we’re willing to spend $35 on a protein and cheese plate But what if that boring, mandated in-flight safety speech was completely rethought and redesigned?

Cool story bro, how does this relate to me?

We love bringing examples to you of industries that are find new ways to engage with their target market and reimagine the way they communicate with their network of customers and peers. See how United Airlines and Air New Zealand are reinventing the wheel when it comes to reporting about airline safety, and use this as inspiration in your own investor communications.


Fly, you Fools!

Air New Zealand has always been ahead when it comes to making engaging and unique videos, but they recently became Lord of the Safety Video with this ‘Middle Earthean’ take on in-flight instructions. The safety video also features appearances from famous Lord of the Rings figures, including Elijah Wood and Peter Jackson, as well as a handful of other stars.


Safety is Global 

United Airlines fused airline safety instructions with clever, everyday situations, taking passengers to Paris, Las Vegas, and  even inside a yellow NYC cab.

Both airlines also came up with a uniquely visual way to display the plane’s safety exits. While we’re all used to seeing this image:




Air New Zealand demonstrates exit rows with a rowdy army of Middle Earth orcs:


 And United Airlines turns to origami as a stewardess ‘folds’ paper into a perfect rendering of the current plane before explaining the exit plan. 


Both these videos remind us of the possibilities in re-imagining old content  and presenting it in ways where it is both more engaging and successful with viewers. They also show us that to be creative or inspirational, you don’t always have to come up with new words; approaching the same content a different way can be equally inspiring. This is especially interesting when thinking of public companies sharing their story with investors. How can mandated content be spun a different way?

These airlines make sure to include the necessary info, such as the locations of flotation devices and the proper way to secure a life-mask, but give it a completely fresh delivery. Words that have been repeated hundreds of times are suddenly made current again. Even if you’d rather zone out for the minutes before departure, these videos capture your interest and make you pay attention.